King of the Tightrope: When the Great Blondin Ruled Niagara
King of the Tightrope: When the Great Blondin Ruled Niagara

King of the Tightrope: When the Great Blondin Ruled Niagara

Written by Donna Janell Bowman & illustrated by Adam Gustavson
Physical book
6 - 10
Reading age
Page count
Oct 1, 2019
Publication date

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What Does Bookroo Think of This Book

Masterful writing and artistic storytelling combine to entertain and inspire readers in this larger-than-life tale of one tightrope-walker’s triumph over the impossible.

Born to the talented French circus family the Gravelets, Jean-Francois Gravelet (better known by his stage name, The Great Blondin) is raised on a tightrope. Feeling bored and having already accomplished an amazing number of feats on the tightrope, including walking on stilts, riding a bike, and even cooking an omelet on a stove, in 1859 he comes up with an idea that challenges his skill, nerve, and showmanship: to walk a tightrope across Niagara Falls. Gravelet faces endless obstacles to surmount to accomplish his goal. And despite his fame as a performer, nothing about the feat is easy. Making the necessary arrangements is difficult. Permission to stretch a rope across the falls has to be obtained. A means for actually stretching and tightening the rope has to be devised. And when it is all in place, Gravelet has to actually stand up on the rope and walk out over the abyss. Bowman accomplishes the rare feat of sharing a remarkable moment in history with masterful storytelling that engages readers and teaches without the feel of a textbook. In perfect harmony of skill, Gustavson’s gouache and watercolor illustrations make the show shine as he captures Blondin’s lifetime of feats from various points of view, beautifully capturing the theatrics of the man with repeating one man tight-rope parades. Elements spill out over the white frame of the illustrations, paralleling The Great Blondin’s efforts to push the boundaries of what is possible.

What Kind of Book is King of the Tightrope: When the Great Blondin Ruled Niagara


Where Does This Book Stand Out

  • History

    The “History” badge is awarded to recognize books that exceptionally share history.

What Questions Should I Ask My Child

  • Blondin's entire life prepares him for his trip across Niagara Falls on the tight rope. As a toddler, he started on a thick board, then moved to a thinner and thinner board to make it to the tight rope. He learned how to set up and maintain ropes. He did increasingly difficult tricks so that when problems presented themselves on his Niagara Falls adventure, he was able to problem solve and accomplish his task. What is something hard you did recently? What prepared you to accomplish it earlier in life? What can you do now to give you experiences you can build on later?
  • It's hard to imagine how difficult walking across Niagara Falls on a tightrope would be. Can you practice your own balance?


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Book Details

Publication Date
October 1, 2019
Peachtree Publishing Company
Illustration Details
The illustrations for this book were created in gouache and watercolor on 140 lb. hot press watercolor paper.
Page Count
Reading Age
6 - 10 years

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Core Score - 65%

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Depth Score - 34%

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